If Conservative smears, media invention, security services black ops and Labour Establishment sour grapes don’t get Jeremy Corbyn, then the EU’s pernicious incompetence, neoliberal banking stranglehold and CIA régime change strategies probably will. My view remains that while he’s there leading a proper Opposition at last, we need to make the most of it – inevitable storms or not. Whether he’s done down by Labour’s fat cats or torpedoed by Mario Draghi, the task that lies ahead of him looks constitutionally, culturally, socially, economically and politically akin to scaling the Eiger’s North Face using treacle for ropes.
The deep cultural malaise into which Britain has collapsed cannot be exaggerated. The irritation of being conned, stitched up and generally made to feel like a forced-labour consuming slave continued right up until the moment I was back on French soil. France is several light years from being Planet Perfect, but at least its sales, marketing and legal professions haven’t gone completely feral – yet.
The Dartford Tunnel having gone digital since my departure, it is extremely easy to realise you’ve gone through it, but quite hard to grasp that you should’ve paid to do so: there are no tariff signs at all, and for a foreigner the Big Brother ‘C’ signs aren’t going to mean very much. Only once you’ve transgressed is there a small and confusing sign that says ‘Pay us by tomorrow night – join us online!’ It still doesn’t say how much you owe, and it most certainly doesn’t explain the fine for not doing do – a whopping £75. I’ll be ringing the Department of Transport (or whatever it’s called this week) and asking how many fines like that they collect per annum.
Back at Stansted airport, I handed in the car and was told there “might be an extra charge” for bringing it back with less petrol in the tank than at the outset. “Not a good idea” I ventured, “As I took a shot of the petrol you gave me”.
The car hire company is called Green Motion, and I cannot recommend their product and staff less highly, because they were the pits. Apart from the attempted insurance and petrol ripoffs, both on hiring and returning the office was engaged in furious arguments with customers. The best example I’ve ever seen of a monopoly employee abusing customers was housed inside the unattractive form of a red-haired lady who clearly felt she was inducting this year’s new 5-year old pupils into infant school.
“Just sit there dearie,” she said to a Polish girl who was next in the queue and had been obviously ignored for over ten minutes. “Why?” the customer asked. “Because I said so,” she whined, her face split by an insolent grin. Then she gave me a clipboard and pen, ordering, “Stand by your car, one of our executives will check you out”.
“Will there be a kit inspection?” I asked. Back turned, she ignored me, muttering, “Don’t run away now whatever you do”. Whether the monopoly of supply is a bus service or the only car hire available, the result is exactly the same. I often wish either of the Jeremy Hunt or Tony Benn tendency could grasp this simple fact of human nature.
The torture continued inside the Airport proper. Zipping merrily past the check-in queues (I’d obtained my boarding card online) I headed through the digital gates and found myself behind a wall of humanity that reminded me of the old Kop End at Liverpool just before a Merseyside Derby kickoff.
The security process took 55 minutes and it soon become obvious why: half the checkin units were out of use.
The task of clearing passengers with minimal delay and maximum safety has been privatised, of course. The company awarded the task is called Manchester Airport Group. I asked a staff member why only four out of eight trolleys were active, and she smiled sweetly, answering, “That’s a question we’d all be very glad if you addressed to our wonderful management”. Overhearing the exchange, a bloke handing me a tray added “Greedy skinflints, mate. It ain’t a service to them, it’s a profit machine”.
There was a fair amount of aggro in the queue, but to their credit, MAG staff handled it impeccably. Their
employers, however, have no right to make an ordeal twice as bad as it needs to be – especially given nobody
in the queues is even remotely likely to be responsible for Jihadism or US/UK foreign policy.
But a notice at the end of the security punishment made it all worthwhile by saying ‘Through security! Now a world of shopping awaits…’; it might just as well have said, ‘OK – we’ve emptied your bags….now we’re gonna empty your pockets!’
Immediately symbolic on entering the World of Shopping was that I couldn’t see my departure for five minutes on the big screen because a cosmetics ad took precedence. It was indeed a WoS, but there was nowhere to sit: one had to walk what seemed like miles past an exceedingly well-known (not to say tediously familiar) set of shop brands before eventually there were thousands of people, all exhausted from the trip through security and shpping, slumped and huddled tightly together on the seats.
I went into WH Smith to buy a snack, but all the staff had been shot. Instead of staff, there were machines with two blokes fully employed to sort the f**kwitted machines out when they went wrong, which appeared to be every 30 seconds.
Is there wifi here, I asked somebody with an ID tag on back in the WoS. Search me she said, which – after what we’d all been through – made me want to obey the order very much indeed.
There was wifi, you got an hour’s worth, and my pc said it was ‘limited’. It was limited to the little circle going round and round; it wasn’t capable of finding or loading pages. After the connection had timed out on several occasions, I went to ‘ Windows connection help’ panel, and its conclusion was ‘You are not connected to the internet’. Which was accurate, although not new information.
I went into a bar in search of mind alteration, and ordered a 25 cl glass of Malbec. “That’ll be £11.85,” said the barmaid chirpily. The equivalent of £35.55 a bottle. For bog-standard Argentinian Malbec. I took it, I paid for it, I drank it….and very quickly the world became a much nicer place. I weaved out and back into the throng of people, most of whom were going on holiday but all of whom looked thoroughly miserable. And then I saw this sign.
‘Escape Lounge’ it promised. But the promise – as always in the UK of 2015 – came at a price. And the price was £25. Twenty five pounds of her Majesty’s realm for some tea, biscuits, a selection of newspapers, and wifi. High speed wifi, not sh*t free wifi like the plebs were getting. Twenty five bloody quid just to escape from all the noise, mammon and warped values of Camerlot.
In one way or another, we are all paying for neoliberal codwallop: with our jobs, or the expensive prices, or the constant propaganda about the joy of buying stuff, or how we should want more and more and more to eat and drink in order to be at ease with the world. Today’s Independent had a tiny piece about how Cambridge University’s Dr Gareth Hollands had discovered that eating from smaller plates cuts calorie intake by 16%. Very sensible and bleeding obvious, but not much use when every countline and pizza and hamburger and crisp brand features bigger and bigger pack variants.
So much for ‘culture’. Now for transparency and the Law: where will Corbyn start on this mess? A report by the Government Insolvency Service pointing out how Comet’s fire-sale buyers asset stripped the failed retailer and defrauded the taxpayer out of £95million is to remain a secret. No reason is given for this completely unpardonable decision. Nor indeed are we told why the GIS has decided there is insufficient evidence for the prosecution of the Gordon Geckos who threw 7,000 people out of work, and left town owing £25 million in unpaid VAT. I mean, how can there not be evidence that they owned the damned thing and the bill hasn’t been paid?
But as we have seen, bankers set aside money and thus eschew the opportunity to go to prison, Newscorp scoundrels never commit perjury and don’t serve more than 15% of their sentences actually in jail as such or don’t face any charges where the evidence has not been erased beforehand. Judges direct juries to reach these conclusions, or don’t bother to ask the jurors what they they think because I mean WTF would they know when I’m a bent judge and they’re just twelve thick nincompoops? Editors of Mirror Group newspapers caught by pop stars hacking their messages don’t face any questions, nor do they get their collars felt despite a massive fine handed out to their corporate owners. Nor does anyone subpeona the pop star – or the TV talent show judges who could shop said guilty editor tomorrow.
Then there’s the EU. EU interior Ministers couldn’t agree last night on how to distribute refugee migrants around Europe, their Chairman saying it was “premature” at this stage. Premature isn’t what I’d call their decision to finally wake up three months late to the obvious megacrisis developing in relation to ClubMed migrants, but then Brussels is far too busy clubbing radical Governments to death to worry about minor wars in Syria. Although Corbyn’s Party has the solar system’s biggest blind spot in relation to Brussels-am-Berlin fascism, I understand that a lot of such euroscepticism as Jeremy entertains centres on the apparent desire of neoliberal forces to crush his mates in Spain, Italy and Greece.
All of which brings me to the economy. Unless you’re the sort of thick, smug shires nitwit who soaks up all the Cameron/Osborne blather like extra-thick blotting paper, it is by now obvious to the informed minority across the spectrum that you won’t get eternal growth fuelled by rising consumption rates if 70% of the consumers are seeing wage values destroyed, their factories moved to Asia, or their jobs forever after mechanised. It is in this arena, however, where nothing short of a popular outcry bordering on revolt is going to make his objectives even 10% achievable. This is not the old boy new on the block saying economic strategy is flawed in some technical sense: this is a bloke from nowhere saying the entire model of capitalism to which business and politics seems now wedded is daft, unfair, dishonest, dangerous, and in urgent need of being completely demolished.
Every central banker, media mogul, multinational CEO, US State Department spook, Brussels oligarch and Wall Street/City sheister is going to be on his case. Only the Brics might warm to him – and if he plays his cards right, Clubmed and the old Eastern Europe: but his medium term task, when you think about it, is no less than telling Washington where to stick their Special Relationship….and both Mario Draghi and Wolfgang Schäuble where they can park their devious austerity nonsense.
As for the UK Constitutional issues, there really are only two: the House of Lords, and the voting system. The first will, I predict, be a simple knee-jerk from the new Labour leader in favour of an elected chamber – a tramline of thinking that could be one of the greatest missed opportunities of all time. But the voting system debate will test his principle to breaking point.
This next bit of the blog is somewhat truncated and gobbledigibbledee because my connectivity is crap – I’ve been trying to post this since Tuesday afternoon. Suffice to say that, if Jeremy Corbyn is going to beat all these bastards, he will have to motivate the non-voting disillusioned and desperate to get out there and put a tick in a box; and everyone who’s for decency should help the guy with that, for he needs all the help he can get.
An estimated 44% of voters will, as things stand, not vote next time. Jeremy Corbyn says he believes in grassroots democracy – and I for one believe him. Just persuading 1 in 3 of them could transform British politics in favour of reform.